Getting Audio Levels right in Adobe Premiere Pro CC for Youtube

This past week I had a gig to photograph some promotion shots for a local band here in Helsinki. Their gig was quite long, and I had to wait until the very end to do some arranged shots, so I had a lot of time to experiment. After taking all the shots I needed, it though it might as well take some video, since I had brought my new  tripod (Manfrotto BeFree, review coming up shortly).

Since I’m not that familiar with video editing and Youtube, if quickly ran into a problem, how loud should I make the audio in the video? After rummaging around on Google for a while, I found an excellent post on the subject by Kevin Muldoon. Long story short, you should normalize the peaks in the audio to -1 dBFS, and set background music at least 20 dB under overlaid speech.

Since this was quite useful information, and I had to rummage around a bit more on the InterTubes to find how to do this in Adobe Premiere, I thought I’d go full meta and post a Youtube video about it!

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Hähnel ProCube Review

A couple of days ago I was in the mood to do a French press tutorial, and for that I need lots and lots of pictures, and as I usual couldn’t locate a single one of my battery charger for my Canon 7D. As I travel a lot and switch between two camera bags depending on what’s useful, I quite frequently misplace my chargers. Normally they usually turn up after thorough search, but this time they were properly gone. This wouldn’t have normally been a problem either, as I always carry a second charged battery with me but luck would have it, it was flat as well. Me being an impulsive sort of guy from time to time, I went out and thought I would get the cheapest charger I could find to get be my until my proper chargers bothers to turn up. But at the shop I found this wonderful little cube.

ProCube Packaging

 

It’s a dual battery charger, that takes either Canon LP-E6s or LP-E8s, or Nikon EN-EL 14s or EN-EL 15s. Do note that I wrote either, it can’t charge more than one type of battery simultaneously, and changing the adapter plates are a bit of a hassle as you’ll see later. Additionally it comes with an adapter plate so that 4 AA Ni-MH/Ni-CD batteries can be charged (perfect for your flash) and an USB charging outlet, as well as all sorts of international plugs and a car adapter.

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Nokia Wins Camera Competition, again.

As you might have noticed, Nokia seems to be getting really good at making camera phones these last few years. Now they strike again in a blind comparison between most of the big phones on the market!

And yes, this bnothers me to no end, since I’ve been an Samsung Galaxy S-series user since the S2.

Camera Wrist Strap – Quick Review

Leica IIIf and Strap by sstorholm
Leica IIIf and Strap, a photo by sstorholm on Flickr.

I just got my wrist strap that I ordered through Etsy from Simple Machines NYC, and I’ve can honestly say that I was less excited over my new Canon 7D (more on that later) than this strap. First of all, it’s absolutely gorgeous and fits perfectly with the feel of my ancient Leica.
The quality is simply top notch, it’s comfortable and sturdy without being too stiff. I can honestly say I can’t find one thing that would make this strap any better than it is. How they can sell it for 23 USD I will never understand.

And then there’s the handwritten thank-you note that came attached, that really got me, I mean, not only did I get an extremely nice strap for a steal, they then even took the time to write me a thank-you note.

So, here’s me returning the favour David & Mai, thank you for an awesome camera strap!

And all you other guys, if you need a good solid strap to go with your range-finder or viewfinder camera, or why not even an SLR, head over to Simple Machine NYC on Etsy and get one of these!

(PS. I’m posting this for the good of humanity, not because of free wrist straps. Not that I can see how anybody in their right mind would give me anything for free.)

Darkroom Series – Developing Your First Roll – Part 1

As promised, here’s my next instalment in what I late last night decided to call the “Darkroom Series”.

First of all, if you haven’t got anything, I’d say start with the most basic of films and developers. This, in my world, means a Kodak Tri-X like film and a Kodak D-76 like developer. And don’t worry about these names yet, I’ll explain them in a moment.

So, as I said in my last post, all you really need when it comes to developing your own film is the following.

  • Tank
  • Developer
  • Fixer
  • Water

and additionally, you need a dark room (bath room, closet, a thick blanket in a semi dark room) to load your film into the tank in, something to time your process with, as well as exposed film (duh.).

The process is as follows;

  1. Select your film, tank and chemicals
  2. Load film in tank
  3. Pre-soak film in water
  4. Develop film in developer/water mix
  5. Stop development in water
  6. Fix film in fixer/water mix
  7. Wash film in water
  8. Optional: Wash the film in diluted washing liquid and water

Let’s go through the steps.

1. Choosing your materials

Well, there’s no real right or wrong here (as you might have guess already), but I’d say keep it simple for starters until you get the hang of things. This means, as I said earlier, Tri-X and D-76, but what does this mean then?

Kodak Tri-X is a black and white film made by Kodak, and was for many years the go to film for photojournalists and the like, so if you’ve seen any black and white pictures in the newspapers during the last 40-50 years, you have most definitely seen Tri-X. It’s also very forgiving when it comes to exposure and development, so no matter what you do to it, it will work perfectly.

But hold on, I said “Tri-X like” film earlier, didn’t I? Well, as you will find out sooner or later, most of the manufacturers out there all make pretty much the same films, and the differences between them are fine to be honest. But this also means that you can basically just use whichever of these films that you can find/afford, and your results shouldn’t vary that much either way!

So, these are the Tri-X like films I’m familiar with;

I’d say start with either of the two first alternatives, and you’ll be fine. Click the links if you want to see examples of the results look!

The, again for the developer, I said D-76 like developer. Well, again, this is the standard developer made by Kodak, and it’s very simple to use. Ilford makes an almost identical version called ID-11. Both work like this; you mix 2 bags of powder in hot water, and let it cool, and afterwards you just mix that solution with water to make developer. The stock solution can be stored in any kind of canister, I use big brown glass bottles from a apothecary (drug store for you Americans) simply because they are really cheap and easy to clean.

But why do I recommend this instead of Rodinal, HC-110, or anything else? Because first and foremost, D-76/ID-11 is a lot cheaper, and beginners generally want to keep their initial investment low, and secondly the dilutions are much easier to work with (1+1 or 1+4 instead of 1+63 or something). It’s also a bit more predictable than the more arcane one-shot developers.

The tank then? Well, here it’s kinda up to you depending on what formats you want work with, and how many rolls you want to do at a time, but for the beginner just starting out I’d recommend the Peterson System 4 tank that takes two spirals. All the other tanks I’ve tried have been either leak-prone, or hard to load. The Peterson is neither, and the spirals adjust so that you can do both 35mm and 120 film with them. Having two spirals have the added benefit (aside from being able to process two rolls of 35mm in one batch, duh) that you never have to wait for the spiral to dry before being able to process the next one.

Aside from these you will also need fixer, but that’s easy, if you can, get Ilford Rapid Fixer, it’s what I’ve always used, and it works fine. Mix up one 1 liter batch of it for starters by mixing 2 dl concentrate with 8 dl of water. You don’t have to be very accurate here as with the developer, so a mixing jug is fine.

2. Load your film

This I’m not going to show you, as there are plenty of videos on YouTube that shows you how to do it, they cover all different types of formats and tanks, and finally, I don’t happen to have any fogged film to show you with, and I don’t want to waste it. However the basic idea is to get your film onto the spiral, and into the tank without exposing it to light. I’ve always used a windowless bathroom, but some people prefer so called “changing bags” which are basically light tight fabric bags with holes for your hands.

3. Presoak Your Film

Okay, so you are ready to start developing, you have your film in the tank, your developer and fixer mixed and ready to go, now what?
Well, I always start by presoaking the film in water (which is at process temperature) for three minutes to allow the emulsion (the gelatin coating that contains the silver halide that makes the image) to swell and to wash out some of the chemicals that are added to the film to make it more sensitive to light but that are of no use when it comes to developing the film. In theory, this should even out your results between different batches of film and developer, but I haven’t experimented enough to be able to say anything about that. Still, I like the idea of it, and I’ve always done it, so I recommend that you do it too.
After the three minutes are up, just dump out the water, which should by now have quite a funky color depending on you brand of film. Remember to agitate it a bit during this step (you’ll learn what agitation is in a bit).

4. Developing the Film

This no more complicated than chucking the developer in the tank for a specific amount of time, except for this one thing called “agitation”. So, what does agitation mean then? Well, it’s basically a fancy word for “shaking the tank in a specific and repeatable manner”. Why do we need to do this then? The main reason is because when the developer transforms the silver halide in the film into metallic silver, the developer solution gets depleted (“worn out”) close to the film and stops doing its thing. The way we fix this is to shake things up so that fresh developer gets its hands on the film. So, why can’t we just shake it all the time just randomly? Because agitation increases the grain of the film, which isn’t very pretty looking, so we want to this as little as we can while still getting even development. But how do we balance these two things?

I do it one way and one way only, and it has never led me wrong. You agitate by inverting the tank upside down, and back, twist the tank 1/3 of a full rotation and repeat. You do this continuously for the first 30 seconds and thereafter 10 seconds at the top of every minute. 4 inversion should take about 10 seconds.
And finally, don’t listen to me for all eternity, experiment after you get your feet wet, but stuck to my rule for your first tries so you get a baseline to compare your results to. Every photographer I know has a different style when it comes to agitation, and after a while, so will you.

Then we come to the time part. Time and temperature controls how much your negative develops, and more of either means more silver in the film until it becomes opaque. The trick is balancing these two things to get a fully developed negative that’s not too thick to thin to scan or print. Longer times means that the developer has more time to react with the silver halide and therefore produce more silver. Higher temperatures makes the developer do its thing faster (for every ten degrees centigrade higher temperature, chemical reactions happens twice as fast), thus more silver in a shorter timeframe. Luckily, you don’t have to figure these things out by yourself, as almost all manufacturers of developers has already posted times for popular films in their developers. And if you want to do cross-brand, (Kodak film in Ilford developer for example), and the times for your film isn’t listed, head over to The Massive Devchart or filmdev.org, they both list times and temperatures for almost every combination known to mankind. Another thing to be mindful of is the strength of the developer, or dilution, as these also affect the development process (stronger stuff = more speed). These you will find online listed as “1+63”, “1+4”, or “1+0”, but they are really simple, they just mean parts developer stock solution to parts water, so 1+4 means that you just mix 1 part developer stock with 4 parts water (developer stock solution means the liquid you mixed from powders or bought in a bottle, depending on the developer).

This has become so extremely long winded that I’m gonna split this intro into two parts, so, stay tuned for part 2, which is coming later this week.

If you think I left something out, was unclear about something, and/or that I’m a bloody idiot for even thinking of doing things this way, leave a comment below so that I can see the error of my ways. Otherwise, the mental beatings suffered from my prose will continue until morale improves.

Darkroom Series – Temperature Surfing – Trick 1

Here’s a quick tip when it comes to developing temperatures and how to control them without a lot of fancy equipment. The idea is to allow for the loss/gain of heat between your developing solution and the surrounding environment (it’s called an “open system” in heat transfer lingo) when there are differences in temperature between the two.

That was the complicated part, the rest is a lot easier. Lets say for example that your room temperature is 22 degrees Celsius, and your development charts call for 20 degrees. What you do then is that you deliberately make your developer slightly cooler than what’s call for, maybe 19 degrees. This way, you’ll initially be too cold, but as your developer sucks in heat from it’s surroundings, it’ll heat up to and past the temperature your process calls for, but will as a mean over time have been around what you wanted it to be. This is due to the fact that the reaction speed of chemical processes is temperature dependent, i.e. they work faster at higher temperatures and slower at lower temperatures. So your development will start out slightly slow and end slightly fast, evening out each other.

Here’s a graphic that I made that probably explains this a lot better than I just did.

20130130-072559.jpg

But what do you do if your room is colder than the process temperature? Easy, just start of hotter than called for instead.

One thing to keep in mind is that this only works if you’re only one or two degrees off the ideal temperature, if you can’t for example get cold enough water or the room temperature is significantly hotter you should start looking into compensating for the higher temperatures, and develop at the elevated room temperature instead. Most popular developers have a chart for doing this in their data sheets, and it’s really easy to use. If you’re working at temperatures over 26 degrees Celsius, then you’ll have to look into getting hold of so called “tropical” developers. These are special developers formulated to work predictably in hot environments, like the tropics, therefore the name, but this are really high level voodoo that I have no intimate knowledge of, so you’re on your own in that case.

Darkroom Series – B&W Developing for Beginners

After writing a lengthy reply on a forum about getting started in the B&W darkroom, it occurred to me that there’s a lot of pages on the internet, and a lot of tutorials, which tell you all the important stuff you need to know when starting out. Which is very good and very informative, and of great use to all newcomers to the art of darkroom work (which is extremely important since our trade is not what you’d call “flooding the market” as it is). But, fine as many of these tutorials may be, none of them seem to tell people what’s really important, aside from things that are good to know but not critical. Cause from what I remember, my biggest fear when starting out was to somehow fuck all this up, and that’s not really that surprising, since the process is very arcane and parts of it has to be done in the dark so you don’t ruin your film etc. etc.

But, I’m here to tell you, it’s not hard. It’s fiddly (getting film out of the canister and onto a reel in pitch dark), it’s complicated if you like to make it so, but never hard, and in the end very rewarding.

First, what do you actually need, compared to what the pros are using:

  • A tank
  • Developer
  • Fixer
  • Water (Tap or Distilled, you choose)

That’s it! And that’s exactly what I had when I started out, along with some liquid detergent (the save the planet – non-perfumed stuff, mind you!) as a final rinse. And guess what, it worked just as well as what I use today;

  • Tank
  • Developer
  • Stop Bath
  • 2 Bath Fixer
  • Wash Aid
  • Wetting Agent

And all this extra stuff is mostly there because I like to mess about with these things, and as I kinda hinted at earlier I live in mortal fear of somehow messing things up.

So, this is my quite lengthy introduction into darkroom work, in my next post (probably within a day or two is someone actually reads this) I’ll go into developing your first roll of film. After that I’ll continue with more posts about developers and fixers and what not, depending on how bored I am and how inspired I feel.

Medium Format and TLRs

Shot with a Yashica-Mat 124G Fri 21.01.2011

Recently, I bought a Yashica-Mat 124G of eBay, mostly because I was intrigued by both the Twin Lens Reflex camera system and the film format.

Somehow, I’ve got the feeling that TLRs make for better photographs in certain situations than SLRs. The parallax error and the mirrored viewfinder makes for interesting compositions that the photographer don’t have 100% control over, no matter what kind of experience. This, in my opinion makes TLRs especially well suited for street portraits and other medium range photography, where the depth of the image is around 10-20 meters.
The fact that people aren’t used to people taking photographs looking down at a small black box instead of pointing a big zoom lens at them only adds to the pros when it comes to street portraits.

The film format then. First of all, the negatives are big, especially for a guy like me that has never shot anything but 35mm. I mean, 60mm x 60mm of real estate to play around with. Other things I’ve noticed is that the negatives are a whole lot easier to scan, since dust and grain doesn’t get as enlarged as with 35mm, and they allow for insane amounts of pixels, 6400dpi scans yields about 190 megapixels. Printed at 300dpi, that’s about 1,2 meters square. And finally, I find the 120 rolls a lot more pleasant than 35mm cartridges, the 120 rolls are somehow a bit more “organic” or something. Don’t ask me for a better description, suffice to say that I like stuff for the strangest of reasons